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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Borde-nough: Cupid draws his bow

Published: February 12, 2010
Section: Opinions

“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1849 story “Kavanagh,” but “it is less difficult to know that it has begun.” Cupid’s arrows flew over the political landscape in strange ways in recent weeks, but an examination of their paths reveals a pattern that would fit nicely into a soap opera plot. The plot revolves around a secret admirer, whose forbidden loves are too dangerous to disclose. In keeping with Longfellow’s wise words, it’s hard to pinpoint when the love that’s in the air today originated, but it’s no less difficult to gainsay its presence.

A barrage of arrows fell among some Congressional Republicans. But their “Roadmap for America’s Future,” put forth by the House Budget Committee’s ranking minority member Paul Ryan, seemed unlikely to lead to the Love Shack. Rather than spread the country’s health care budget more thinly across a larger insured population and expose everyone to the risk of lessened benefits, as Democrats led by President Barack Obama wish to do, the Republican budgetary road runs right over recipients of public benefits like Medicare and Medicaid.

Ryan’s proposal would privatize those programs and old-age pensions. Medicare, with its controlled costs to patients and governmental shouldering of the bulk of the risk, would be replaced with a government voucher for buying insurance on the market. The vouchers wouldn’t be large enough to do that, and because its size would not be linked to the rate of medical insurance inflation, it would cover less of the cost of a policy over time.

Obama wisely got Republicans to agree to hold a “health care summit,” at which he can publicly wave Ryan’s proposal in front of the many Americans approaching retirement age, of whom disproportionate numbers tend to vote. Republicans so openly willing to let retiring baby boomers drop dead, if they can’t afford insurance, may find that Congress’ large Democratic majorities won’t retire any time soon.

Another of Cupid’s arrows entered one ear of former Alaska Governor and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate and perennial 1984 Miss Wasilla Sarah Palin, but it exited the other ear safely without touching anything solid. Palin was struck during a speech on Feb. 6 in Nashville before a rapt audience belonging to the so-called Tea Party movement. Their chants of “Run, Sarah, run!” suggested that their nascent organization may indeed be appropriately named after a membership that apparently includes numerous March Hares, Mad Hatters, and chasers of White Rabbits.

Palin read notes from the very hand that she had the crowd eating from. She called for Obama “to declare war on Iran,” and told Fox News that she “would be willing” to run against him in 2012. She then traveled to Redding, California on Feb. 8 to inform a crowd that global warming was “snake-oil science.” Sensible Republicans ought to be running for the hills, but sensible people don’t comprise the whole of either party, and some of these other Republicans appear to want Palin running for them.

Cupid almost broke his bow shooting another arrow more than 6,000 miles to Tehran. It somehow managed its way through a retinue of bulky bodyguards and nearly shaved the moustache off of its incredibly short intended target, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only moments had passed since his Monday announcement that Iran’s atomic scientists would kick their work up a notch: rather than produce 3.5 percent enriched uranium, they would now enrich the radioactive element to 20 percent. One day earlier, he had announced that Iran had launched a rocket into space.

The small payload of Iran’s rocket and the need to enrich uranium to 90 percent to make nuclear weapons suggest that Iran’s president was blowing smoke. But that seemed less important to American journalists and politicians than the opportunity to write alarming sound bites and to call, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did, for economic sanctions. Fear sells more news and wins more elections than reason, so Americans can expect more such talk whenever any hot air passes out of Ahmadinejad.

If the rhetoric spoken by Cupid’s targets is any indication, his arrows missed their targets. But surely there’s one man who’s secretly lovestruck with them all. When Ryan and friends pronounce their willingness to desert hordes of voters in their time of medical need, when Palin hints that she’ll distract Republicans with a candidacy that will make them look foolish, and when Ahmadinejad makes provocative but empty gestures that might easily become part of the pretext for an American-led attack on Iran that could be a mid-term election winner in October if timed properly, none of them seem able to comprehend how much they excite this guy’s passions. This Valentine’s Day, their secret admirer resides in the White House.